Bills Preview Capsule
BUFFALO BILLS (7-9)
New faces: WRs Jordan Matthews, Andre Holmes and rookie Zay Jones; safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer; CBs rookie Tre’Davious White, E.J. Gaines and Shareece Wright; OLs Vlad Ducasse and rookie Dion Dawkins; FBs Patrick DiMarco and Mike Tolbert; QB T.J. Yates and rookie Nathan Peterman; PK Stephen Hauschka; coach Sean McDermott; general manager Brandon Beane.
Key losses: WRs Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Anquan Boldin and Marquise Goodwin; CBs Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Kevon Seymour; safeties Aaron Williams and Corey Graham; LBs Zach Brown and Reggie Ragland; RBs Mike Gillislee and Jonathan Williams; QBs EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones; PK Dan Carpenter; coach Rex Ryan; general manager Doug Whaley.
Strengths: Defensive front of Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes returns intact, and switching to better-suited 4-3 scheme after unit underachieved in Ryan’s 3-4 system past two years. LeSean McCoy-led running attack, which led NFL in yards rushing past two seasons.
Weaknesses: Receiver position is completely transformed and lacks downfield threat after Watkins traded to Rams, and experience after Boldin abruptly retired two weeks after signing with team last month. QB Tyrod Taylor’s top targets projected to be Matthews, acquired from Philadelphia, Holmes and Jones. Secondary is also entirely revamped with free-agent-addition Hyde taking over as play caller, while adjusting to new scheme installed by McDermott and coordinator Leslie Frazier. Offensive line has shown signs of struggling in pass protection, especially with starting LT Cordy Glenn missing most of offseason with sore left foot.
Fantasy Players To Watch: McCoy is left as Bills’ only proven offensive threat and expected to be heavily involved as both rusher and receiver in new coordinator Rick Dennison’s plans. Matthews is worth consideration as only proven receiver, though missed past month with chipped sternum. Matthews expected to be ready for opener.
Expectations: Have plummeted over past month with new regime continuing offseason purge in exchange for draft picks. With Williams cut on Sunday, roster features just 16 players team drafted, including six rookies this year, leaving team in jeopardy of extending NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 18 seasons. Only 25 players return from last season, including OT Seantrel Henderson and WR Walter Powell, who open season serving NFL suspensions.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL